Street Epistemology

Epistemology was an idea promoted by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates lived from 470 BCE. to 399BCE. Socrates is well known today because he was a founder for asking questions about the world, and had a specific method of questioning in which he asked questions to make people figure things out on their own, without pointing them to a source. One less well known product of Socrates was the idea of Epistemology.

Epistemology is the investigation and theory of knowledge, and specifically how knowledge is justified, or made valid. It examines how truth, knowledge, and opinion are determined. Considering our current society having many questions about these differences it is surprising that most people don’t know anything about what Epistemology means or is. However, the olden ideas of Epistemology originating from Socrates have evolved over the thousands of years, and today there is something even more interesting called Street Epistemology.

Street Epistemology¬†by definition is the application of epistemology outside of formal academic contexts. A better way to think about Street Epistemology is that it’s a way to have a successfully have a civil, non-confrontational, respectful, meaningful, and productive conversation with anyone, about what is true and what isn’t. One key point about Street Epistemology is that it doesn’t have to be about religion.¬†Although it may be used by many philosophers or curious minded humans to question religion, the application of good street epistemology doesn’t force or pressure a certain topic of discussion on the participant. The only thing people desire to learn from street epistemology is how people know that a certain belief is true, and how confident they are that the belief is true.

How does it work exactly? In summary, the person who is asking someone else first asks if they have a moment to participate in an interview, verifying consent. The interviewer then proceeds to ask the participant to pick a belief that they want to discuss. After this point the conversation varies and a series of follow-up questions are asked in order to make the participant think about why they believe in what they believe in. The interviewer will lower the provoking nature of the questions that they ask if they feel that the participant(s) would be harmed by intenser questions.

That’s really all you need to know about Street Epistemology. Be careful if you attempt this in the real public since if the questions seem too confrontational, the participant(s) will feel threatened which can lead to you being seen as someone who is trying to convert people to a separate belief rather than just someone gathering knowledge. There are some youtubers that do this really well, such as Anthony Magnabosco. This is the link to just one of his videos:


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